Hull Seahawks welcomed into NIHL National by Yorkshire derby rivals Sheffield Steeldogs and Leeds Knights

Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Steeldogs and Leeds Knights have welcomed the chance to engage in an additonal NIHL National derby battle next season after Hull Seahawks’s addition to the league was confirmed.

GOING HOME: Matty Davies impressed during the 2021-22 NIHL National campaign with Leeds Knights but will be overseeing hockey operations at Hull Seahawks next season. Picture: Andy Bourke/Podium Prints.

Former Knights’ captain Matty Davies is part of the three-man IMJ Group which will oversee the return of second-tier hockey to the city after an absence of two seasons.

It means there will be three Yorkhire teams competing at this level again, as there was in the inaugural 2019-2020 NIHL National campaign, when Leeds Chiefs made their debut alongside the Steeldogs and Hull Pirates.

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The Pirates never made it back for the 2021-22 season after the coronavirus pandemic, with owner Shane Smith opting not to ice a team out of Hull Ice Arena.

Steve Nell - Leeds Knights owner. Picture: Steve Riding

But while the new Hull team is very much a fresh venture, it arrives with a firm nod to the sport’s past in the city, with the very first team to play there back in 1988 known as the Humberside Seahawks.

In a statement released yesterday, the Seahawks’ owners – which comprises Davies, Ian Mowforth and local businessman Joe Lamplough – said the choice of team name seemed a logical move to make.

“The former Humberside Seahawks carried the name with distinction, being one of the most important teams of the era,” said the owners. “Therefore, a return to the Seahawks brand seems a natural and long overdue move.

“Our decision is not just a nod to nostalgia. We hope that this is the start of a new era for ice hockey in Hull.”

Roger Williams, co-owner of the Steeldogs, who will go into the 2022-23 campaign on the back of a memorable cup and play-off winning double, said the return of second-flight hockey to Hull was to be celebrated.

“We’ve missed the rivalry we had with the Pirates,” said Williams. “So a new Hull team should bring back some of those big nights. Their presence will impact on player recruitment in the north but that hopefully will see more opportunities for younger players.

“We’ve just finished a year that was brilliant for the level of competition from top to bottom of the league and into the play-offs. So if we can see even more of that level of excitement with Bristol and Hull on board, it can only be a good thing for the fans and the league.”

Knights’ owner, Steve Nell, added: “It’s great to get a Hull team back, not just for us because it’s another Yorkshire rival, but for the whole league.

“They should be back in the league. They’ve got a good fanbase crying out for hockey and I think they’ll do well.”